There’s a lot of writing about sex here on Medium, which is a good thing. Sexuality is central to our lives. What’s curious is that nearly all the articles I see in my feed are written by women. The few articles written by men are without exception Politically Correct, echoing currently fashionable beliefs about male and female sexuality.
The problem with Political Correctness is that it’s just a dogma, and like all dogmas it attempts to crush alternative perspectives in order to enforce The One True Way. History tells us this is never a good idea.
It’s a curious thing that as far as heterosexual norms are concerned, Political Correctness is not dissimilar to attitudes pertaining in Victorian England. This isn’t entirely surprising, as attitudes towards sexuality in the USA are in several ways rather similar to those of Victorian England circa 1870. Unfortunately those attitudes were erroneous and unhelpful.
The central problem with all dogmas regardless of their provenance is the assumption of a one-size-must-fit-all paradigm. Aside from biologically obvious phenomenon such as the need for oxygen and water to keep us alive, it is rarely the case that one size of anything will suit all of us. Harm is then caused when ordinary human diversity clashes with The One True Way.
To illustrate the point we’ll look at that most Victorian of assumptions: that whereas (all) men are ready to go at the drop of a pair of pants, (all) women require security and affection and lots of warm up in order to be ready to enjoy sex.
From an evolutionary perspective this seems implausible. For 97% of our evolutionary history we’ve been prey. All prey species have to mate quickly because during copulation they are exceedingly vulnerable. This in turn means that for nearly all of human history our copulations would also have been necessarily very brief. It’s no good arguing that we humans are somehow magically excluded from evolutionary processes because everything we are, every aspect of our bodies and our behaviors, is the result of evolution. 98% of our DNA is shared with our closest relatives the chimps and we share an enormous range of behavioral traits with them as well. As our genome is barely different from what it was 15,000 years ago it is unlikely that the human female sexual response has radically shifted in the last few thousand years.
This renders entirely implausible the notion that “women need X and X and X in order to be ready to enjoy sex.” As women clearly can and do enjoy sex, there is no realistic explanation that could account for both the biological necessity of a long warm up period and the evident human female sexual response of enjoyment. The only alternative would be standardized male arousal leading to copulation despite no strong female sexual response. But that’s not what we see. Most women do experience pleasure and therefore the dogma cannot be correct.
The reason many people have uncritically embraced the long warm up notion is because so much of US sexual culture is still heavily influenced by Victorian thinking, in which men had sexual desire and women were supposed to “lie back and think of England.” But that’s not a good enough reason to believe something that is highly implausible in the light of known facts.
From logic we now pass to anecdote (and yes, I know the dangers…). Although most of my sexual experiences occurred between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, since becoming divorced two decades ago I’ve had the privilege of being sexually intimate with 71 women, or an approximate average of one new partner every three-and-a-half months, which is hardly Casanova territory. Of that number, thirty-four explicitly asked me not to commence sex with cunnilingus prior to us becoming physically intimate. Many talked about how they disliked the feeling that the man was “trying to earn it” or “assuming I won’t enjoy it unless he spends ages eating me out first.” Others spoke of wanting “to be taken, just fucked hard without preliminaries.”
For these women, approximately 48% of my personal sampling of post-2000s female sexuality, what they most wanted was passion and confidence and a certain measure of aggression. They wanted an approach to sexual intimacy that was at significant variance to The One True Way.
The outcomes? No real difference between the women who felt they needed to be “warmed up” versus the women who wanted instant handling and penetration. In every case the enjoyment of sex was dependent on a wide range of factors rather than simply whether or not elaborate foreplay had taken place. Even if my personal sample was being skewed by other factors (for example, women who find me attractive may do so because they are picking up on subliminal cues that indicate I can provide the kind of sexual experiences they prefer) the point is nevertheless valid: one size cannot fit all.
Obviously this does not mean that foreplay and oral sex are irrelevant to the human sexual experience. As we are no longer prey animals we have the great luxury of now being able to take our time over eating, sleeping, and fucking. Fellatio is not essential for a man’s ability to deposit semen into a vagina, yet it is very enjoyable. Likewise cunnilingus is not irrelevant merely because approximately half of my personal encounters expressed a preference to refrain from using it as a pre-penetration necessity. The point is that cunnilingus and other extended forms of warm-up are not, contrary to today’s dogma, a must-have for a satisfactory sexual encounter between a man and a woman. It all depends on the woman’s preferences, mood at the time, and past experiences as well as many other factors.
Far too many people seem eager to drag Political Correctness into the bedroom. Many years ago I knew a charming young woman whose most enjoyable sexual experiences came from being spanked and then penetrated by a dominant man. Convinced that this made her a “bad feminist” she forced herself into a lesbian relationship despite feeling no sexual attraction whatsoever for other women. Not surprisingly both people involved suffered emotionally. And when my friend had her occasional “lapses” wherein she’d seek out a dominant man, she’d punish herself for weeks afterward in an orgy of guilt and regret.
The simple fact that Politically Correct nostrums have no relevance whatsoever to one’s sexual desires seems to have eluded far too many people.
Many women I’ve listened to have described various forms of rape or coercion fantasy, yet they have also been very clear that they’d never want to experience such things in real life. The fantasies are a reliable turn-on and so they enrich these women’s sexual lives. Why should these women feel guilty or forego their fantasies merely because the contents run contrary to someone else’s notion of The One True Way?
It’s striking, when one steps back to look at the larger picture, how so much of today’s Politically Correct thinking actually disempowers women rather than empowers them. This is inevitably the outcome of every one-size-must-fit-all ideology.
My modest proposal is that instead of reaching for the nearest convenient Politically Correct nostrum whenever we face a situation in life, we should pause and consider it from our own perspective first. In not a few cases I suspect this approach will lead to far healthier outcomes for everyone concerned.